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Old 12-22-2002, 09:50 AM   #1 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

'61 T-Bird with 390, 600 cfm Holley 4160 (jetted way rich, which I'll be fixing shortly), rebuilt heads with CJ valves, tired short block. Heat riser valve not working. Elec choke.
Anyway, my T-Bird has a hell of a time starting in the cold. It (logically) gets worse the longer it sits. I have a job where I go to work for 30-35 hours at a time, and after work here in Montana when I go to start the car and it's 20 degrees or colder, it will just crank and crank until it kills the battery. It doesn't crank smoothly, there are a lot of hitches and hiccups as I try to start it, but it never seems to catch until I've been cranking for about 10-15 minutes and already have another car jumping me. Then, once I do get it running, it runs like crap for probably up to 30 minutes, even after the temp gauge is reading warm.
If I just let it sit overnight it starts OK, but not willingly. I'll crank it several times, and one cylinder will catch, then another, and so on. It has to warm up for about 15 minutes before I can drive it. Funny thing is, once it's warm, I can start it again and it will fire on the first crank every time. What's going on here?
Everything on top of the short block is brand-new within the last 6 months. Carb, every part of the ignition (Pertronix included), heads, everything. I swapped out the generator for an alternator thinking maybe the gen couldn't keep up charge with the 12-disc changer and digital radio I installed and the battery was slowly dying, but no dice. I would think the heat riser valve wouldn't do anything until the engine was actually started anyway. The choke is properly adjusted, but I usually end up cranking the engine for so long it's open by the time it fires anyway. Is the fuel evaporating out or something? Could the overly rich jets in the carb be causing this? Timing set at about 18 deg initial, plug gap .040, but I should be OK with an electronic ignition, 8mm wires, platinum plugs, 60,000-volt coil and Ford Racing brass cap/rotor. What gives? This car is my daily driver and I can't afford to have it leave me stranded every time I go to work.
Thanks,
Darel
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Old 12-22-2002, 10:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

I see that the wires are new and the cap thats where i have had most of my trouble trying to start engines. Make sure the choke is not cutting off all the air. If set right you should be able to stab it one to set the choke should be on fast idle cam of the choke. I would take them platinum plugs out and put in a set of none resistor plugs BF 32's gaped also at .04. As cold as it gets there i would give it a shot of ether on the first try.
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Old 12-22-2002, 10:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

Choke is properly adjusted. My usual starting procedure is to stab it once as you say, setting the choke, then while cranking just "break" the gas pedal and hold it. I personally don't like ether, do you think giving it a few pumps would work the same or just flood it?
Thanks a lot,
Darel
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Old 12-22-2002, 10:49 AM   #4 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

Oh, one more thing. The car has a block heater in it - one of the old style that works really well, with the separate canister that heats antifreeze and pumps it through the engine and all. Problem is, I am afraid to leave a 40-year-old electrical device plugged in for days at a time. I know that at least this device will help my warmup times and general driveability, but does anyone see a problem with leaving it plugged in this long? Maybe it's a potential fire hazard?
Thanks a lot,
Darel
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Old 12-22-2002, 11:04 AM   #5 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

I posted this on another FE forum and here's some things that came up.
I do have the big Duraspark cap and replaced the ballast wire. I think the Pertronix also has the auto-start retard but I'm not sure. Either way, it still had the start problem when I had the initial timing set around 10-12 deg.
My usual starting procedure is to stab it once to set the choke, then just crack and hold the throttle. I follow the same procedure when it doesn't want to start as I'm afraid to flood it and exacerbate the problem. Should I maybe pump it a few times when it's cold and has been sitting? Someone else suggested a shot of ether when I know it's cold, while I don't like ether I'm willing to try anything. Thoughts?
My battery cables are all brand-new 1/0 gauge. The battery is also new within the last 6 mos., but I'm considering swapping it for an Optima deep-cycle for the CCAs. I want to determine if there is some other problem first, before I go dropping an unnecessary $130 on a battery. The battery is a bit slow when cold but that's to be expected. I would think the engine should still fire.
As far as fuel supply goes, I recently adjusted my float level for the first time (silly me, I thought a brand new carb was bolt-and-go). It was extremely low. The float adjustment had no effect on cold starting, but I did notice on my generic see-through fuel filter that it is no longer 3/4 full of gas at idle. It seems now that there is very little gas sitting in the filter. Does this indicate a fuel flow problem or is it normal? Either way I have just as much trouble starting when cold so it's not a big deal right now.
Thanks for all the advice. Keep it coming!
Darel

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Old 12-22-2002, 01:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

OK, just went outside and fiddled and it looks like now the choke plate is completely closing off when it's cold. How do I adjust this on a 4160/elec. choke? I have the manual but this has me bending rods and stuff. It doesn't make sense b/c the choke was properly adjusted not long ago, so if I have to bend some rod to get it right now, that would mean this rod had to have bent some other way to get out of adjustment. I don't see how that could have happened just with normal driving, so there must be some other way for the choke to be adjusted. Any ideas?
Darel
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Old 12-22-2002, 02:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

Darrel is there three little screws and a ring around the electric choke if so loosen them a little and turn it back tell it just barely closes it. I would only stab it once then turn it over to start not holding the peddle down if your carb it tight it will hold the gas and give it a shot when you stab it set the choke while at the same time setting the fast idle. Im not good with part numbers so im not sure which carb you have. I really donít like anything but autolite in fords champions in Chryslers and ac in gm. Have you ever pop off a plug wire and looked at what kind of arc you are getting from your ignitions. I once bought a set of accel plug wires for a mustang I was working on put them on and it missed so bad I thought everythingís new it should be running fine put old wires back on ran great I never bought another set of accel wires again
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Old 12-22-2002, 02:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

The electric choke is housed in the black plastic round housing. loosen the three screws on the clip, and rotate the housing forward or back abit. The little bimetalic (temperature sensative) spring inside puts tension on the choke butterfly.

Sounds like you might be lacking oxygen (air) for combustion. Thats why, when you flood it...you floor the gaspedal and hold it floored while cranking...allowing air with precious 21% oxygen to enter the system
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Old 12-22-2002, 03:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

The round plastic housing only controls how quickly the choke opens. I need to adjust how much it's open when it's fully closed. In any case, just for fun I already tried adjusting the housing and the plate doesn't come off the fully-closed position at all. If I were so inclined I could just turn the key on and wait a few minutes for the choke to open up (no points to burn out) but that really doesn't fix the problem, it only skirts around it. How do I actually adjust the position of the choke plate when it's cold?
Thanks,
Darel

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Old 12-22-2002, 04:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

Sounds to me like the bottom end is completely tired, and the new heads and top end are forcing the compression down past the rings, thus making it such low compression that it dont want to fire up.
It could also be that the timing chain/gears is so stretched that the valve timing is way off......and if you have the distributor advanced at all, it only worsens the situation
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Old 12-22-2002, 09:18 PM   #11 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

This is going to sound painfully obvious, but take out a plug or two, ground them, turn it over, and check for spark when she's cold. Have a buddy help you if necessary. If you have spark, then it's a fuel/air issue.
Your choke is set like mentioned in prior posts. You said it was ok, but cold air can do weird things to Holleys. One other thing to try regarding your Holley, take it off and blow all your bleeds and any hole you can find out with choke cleaner.
Make sure the motor is cold and loosen the three set screws and turn the black spring housing until the choke blade is completely shut but JUST BARELY shut. You may have to turn it back and forth a bit to get an idea for where it needs to be. After it starts vacuum should pull the blades open some and you then have the high idle cam keeping things going. On that note, make sure your high idle is engaging. Once you stab the throttle once or twice, you shouldn't have to ride the pedal on a new carb. It ought to take care of itself.
I'd stick my head over the primaries and make sure your getting a acc pump shot every time you jack the throttle. If you think it's flooding, open the choke up some. If you get into a parking lot setting again, just stick a screwdriver down the choke horn to keep the blades open to dry 'er out some while you are cranking.
The bottom end may be tired but it should fire if you have fuel, air, and spark.
I would also stay away from ether. That's just a good way to light your air filter on fire.
Dump a couple of cans of Heet in the gas tank too.
I'm just throwing out some thoughts. Your cold blooded Ford may be pissing you off now, but you'll figure it out. Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2002, 11:15 PM   #12 (permalink)
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390 won't start when cold

Thanks guys,
After rotating the choke housing WAY too far (over 90 dgerees) the choke plate finally cracked open on its' own. It started up fine then. I'm going to see what it's like tomorrow morning, and I'm going to cross my fingers that the choke doesn't open up so fast the engine dies.
Thanks for all the advice. I may be coming back here tomorrow!
Darel
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